Staff Editorial: Kaepernick’s right to use First Amendment is indisputable

Staff+Editorial%3A+Kaepernick%27s+right+to+use+First+Amendment+is+indisputable

The Beacon Staff

 

Colin Kaepernick has been sitting for the national anthem since August 14, 2016. By all indications, he will continue to do so as long as he feels that Black people are second class citizens in their own home. This has, predictably, brought a firestorm of criticism upon Kaepernick’s head, most of it coming from people associated with the very traditionally conservative NFL, Kaepernick’s employer.

Among The Beacon staff, a consensus was reached that no matter what, Kaepernick has the right to do what he is doing. What was not agreed upon was whether or not what he was doing was the right way to achieve his goal, whether his actions were creating a dialogue that was helping to heal the rifts in the nation, or whether the method he chose to protest was obscuring his point and that there were better, less anger-inducing ways to get his point across.

As a predominantly white staff, we at The Beacon recognize that the experiences of our staff are not the experiences of many of our fellow Wilson students, the majority of whom are not white.  Especially regarding issues of race, it is not our place to tell people of color when and where they can or cannot protest. The Beacon respects the First Amendment more than any other, and that means we also respect people’s right to exercise it.  

Many of us who live in Tenleytown, Chevy Chase, or the American University Park  neighborhoods do not know what it’s like to be racially profiled by police, nor be constantly stopped and questioned because we were wearing a hoodie. We have never had the realization that the latest unarmed black person to have been shot and killed by the police very easily could have been us. If we can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like being an oppressed minority in this nation, who are we to try to quiet the voice of someone who is?

At the end of the day, that’s what Kaepernick’s protest is. He is simply speaking up for a community he feels has had its voice silenced for too long. He is only following in the footsteps of activist athletes before him. Muhammad Ali, widely regarded as one of the greatest activist athletes of all time, refused to report when he was drafted during the Vietnam War. His argument: Why should he go and die for a country that refuses to treat him and people of his skin color like full citizens?

Kaepernick isn’t doing anything as serious as refusing to put his life on the line for his country. He is just sitting. He’s not doing anything to purposefully disrespect people, or to draw excess attention to himself. He’s just staying in his seat while the rest of the nation stands for a song. There is evidence to further his cause, showing off the racist lyrics of the part of the “Star Spangled Banner” we don’t sing, the part celebrating the deaths of slaves who assisted the British in the War of 1812. In the end though, it doesn’t matter. Even if the song were perfectly clean, his protest would still be valid and the forum still acceptable. We at The Beacon support Kaepernick’s right to protest because we know what it is like to have a burning desire to make our voice heard. We know what it is like to try and have our voice silenced. And we do not support silencing others.

GRAPHIC BY MICHELE HAILMAN